Monday, May 17, 2010

What does it all mean?

as I was reading this article by Nate Anderson on Ars Technica, I feel it is important to point to some of the truths and possibly dispel some falsehoods regarding net neutrality. (also cheers to you Nate for presenting a surprisingly even handed article about something so divisive...not net neutrality, Glenn Beck).

Everything seems fine now, why are we changing the laws if the internet seems to be working just fine?

Yes, everything is fine.  Moreover, everything already seems fair and, all-in-all, working properly.  And while a lot of this likely comes down to power grabs and greed (see my post from yesterday), we've come to a point where it has to change.  Not for the better, mind you, but because the major players (telecoms and the FCC) now know what their real limitations are. Now this is conjecture, but I have a distinct feeling that the reason the telecoms have not engaged in any quality of service since the FCC told Comcast to stop a ways back.  I know what you're thinking; "but the courts told the FCC they can't do that, why wouldn't Comcast just go back to picking and choosing what packets get what bitrate?".  Its because the FCC now knows they don't have that power yet, not that they won't have it.  I'm pretty sure that all the telecoms are in a "wait and see" business model right now where they aren't doing anything questionable until they have a better handle on whats coming next for them.

Okay, okay, but still isn't the government going to control and censor the internet like they do with terrestrial radio and broadcast television?

Again, this is mostly conjecture, but realistically the answer is no. The latest information from the FCC on the power they are looking to get from new legislation is outlined in this article and then straight from the horse's mouth here.  While we won't know as many exacts as we would like to until actual legislation is written for a vote, its seems safe to say that they are not interested in getting into the affairs of regular people or bloggers, but rather how broadband is managed.  Yes, I'm sure there will be some mostly unsavory bits to what the FCC will plan on doing, but the same can be said for any change thats coming down the pipe (and yes I'm positive about that).  I know it sounds like I'm backing the FCC all the way here, but rest assured I am really trying to dispel rumors and falsehoods, not back them for anything they plan on doing (also I will have a new post soon detailing the info the FCC has put out so far about net neutrality). 

Fine, whatever, why is this on a blog meant for marketers then?

Well, a few reasons.  First is that as I said in the first place, to have any sort of grasp on net neutrality's effect on marketers, we all need know more about the legislation itself.  Secondly, the main "organization" fighting against net neutrality legislation, Americans for Prosperity - who apparently are big on Glenn Beck's program judging from that Ars Technica article -, have launched a $1.4 million ad campaign against it and I thought the cross-over was too juicy not to bring it up.  The only reason I find this worth mentioning, then, is to be careful of any misleading information coming in through these messages they are crafting.  the group, whose backing information can be found here have most of their financial ties to companies that support republicans and right-wing agendas for good reason.  Not saying there is anything wrong with that or any of the points will be trying to make, just be aware that they (like almost every single organization out there that you ever hear about on political issues) are really not much more than lobbyists.  Though be on the lookout for when their ads start getting air time because I will take a critical look at it when I get a chance and likely hit up a teacher of mine who both leans right politically and has experience with advocacy campaigns to get his thoughts.

Yeah, so really why?  I'm in marketing, remember...

Fair enough - If I'm wrong and the government does have an interest in censoring the internet, there could be much more restrictions on how you advertise depending on who the target is and/or who tends to visit the sites you are advertising on.  This article, for instance, talks about how the Obama Administration (specifically the first lady) want unhealthy food marketing to children completely curbed (currently fast food chains et al  are their own watch-dog and have tried to institute some marketing regulations regarding messaging for kids).  Right now, this relates mostly to traditional marketing, but should the FCC gain the power to regulate messaging online, then marketers for places like McDonalds and BurgerKing would be at the mercy of the government.  Again, though, it doesn't seem as though the FCC is trying to gain the power to control content online so much as the power to oversee the management of how the content is delivered.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Corporate interests - This is where it gets more interesting

Okay so I've said before that ISPs like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have fallen very squarely on the side of not wanting any regulation (against net neutrality) and content providers such as Google and Yahoo have fallen (mostly) on the side of supporting regulation (pro-net neutrality).  For the purpose of this post just so you understand, ISPs refer to the three mentioned above and if I refer to either Google or content providers assume it refers to the whole corporate group supporting net neutrality legislation.

What it comes down to for each of these groups is greed (as well it should since they are by their very definition interested in making more money and/or saving money above all else).  In this specific instance, it tends to be that the ISPs are interested in making more money and the content providers are trying to save more money (or at least not have their costs of doing business rise).  Where the real point of contention here is is in the ISPs interest in "owning" the transmission of content to users.  By this I mean that ISPs see themselves as not only providing end-users with content for a fee, but also providing access to those end-users to content providers for free.

For the ISPs, then, if net neutrality passes, this new business model is an impossibility, whereas if they are granted full ownership and self-regulatory power over their networks then it is completely possible and, in my opinion, likely that they would follow through with this.  Obviously, as this means higher costs for the content providers, they have fallen on the side of pro-net neutrality so as to keep the status quo in this specific instance. 

Now where marketers and consumers come in can be extremely disruptive to the status quo no matter which way things end up with net neutrality.  Should net neutrality pass, marketers will surely have some changes that I will better detail in posts yet to come, but the ISPs have threatened to change billing models to go back to metered.  This will undoubtedly cause lower usage of the internet.  For marketers, this could very well be a game changer as we have been led to believe for at least a few years that internet marketing in some way shape or form is the future of marketing (when compared to traditional advertising like television and print ads).  In all likelihood this will have similar effects on mobile markets too, but, again, I will try to better detail that in a later post.

If net neutrality doesn't pass, Google will with all likelihood pass on their new costs to those that pay for their services...marketers.  While consumers may not see too much difference at least at first, marketers using things like Google AdSense will likely see increased costs of doing search marketing and other services through content providers.  I have more on this, but in an effort keep this post from droning too long I'll touch on more issues soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This is pretty big

I'll go into this more later but an Electronista article that can be found here goes very much into the follow-up to what the FCC is doing since the Appeals court finding that they were overstepping their bounds in the recent Comcast case.

You might remember I have spoken at some sort of length that unlike how most of the news was covering it, that court decision wasn't really a blow to net neutrality so much as letting everyone know that it simply doesn't exist in the way things are now.  It didn't say anything about it becoming a reality down the line.  And, apparently based on the article linked above, it looks like the FCC is doing their best to move it that way.

So, just to recap some of the other stuff I've told you, the FCC a handful of years back declassified internet as a communication medium...meaning they were no longer the overseers of its content and how companies used was to be self-regulated, more or less. Now the FCC appears to be looking to undo that change of classification that occurred during the Bush Administration to regain control over the internet.

There is a lot here specific to each of the corporate and government interests involved, but I should have anew post out very soon first giving an overview of corporate interests on both sides and how that will really really hit marketers, and then where some of the individual interests have altered slightly over time and what their interests mean to both marketers and consumers assuming they win the argument.